Thursday, June 21, 2007

Worst.. Finale... Ever...

Oh boy.

A week and a half after the finale of HBO's The Sopranos, it seems like the perfect time to take a step back and have a look at television finales, specifically bad ones. I didn't think that The Sopranos did deliver a disappointing final episode, I thought that the ending to the series faced the same sort of uncertainty that was exhibited throughout every season. However I seem to be in the minority here, so I wanted to take a moment and remind people of what a truly dreadful finale is like.

Not every show, of course, delivers a bad finale. Something like St. Elsewhere, with its famous snow globe final show caused viewers to stop and think about what they witnessed. It caused a complete reassessment of everything that came before it, a new prism through which to view all the interactions that had taken place in the series. Then there was Babylon 5, which ended its run with a deadly virus getting unleashed that would destroy all humanity (there was a spin-off in which a group went off to find the cure).

There have also been distinctly disappointing show endings, like Seinfeld's trial and jail finale. Some would actually call that a bad show finale, but it pales in comparison to the worst of them all.

No doubt, hands down, unquestionably, the worst finale ever to air on television belongs to Donald P. Bellisario's Quantum Leap. The show starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett and the basic premise was that in the near-future, Beckett created a machine, the Quantum Leap Accelerator, that would allow him to travel in time. Upon its first use, Sam is sent into the past and into someone else’s body. The brains back in the near-future decide that Sam has been placed in this body by something or someone greater than them all in order to correct a mistake, to fix something. Once Sam does this, he moves on to another time and another body, and correcting a mistake there into another, then another, and so on and so forth. Thus, as the viewer is told at the beginning of most episodes, the premise of the show is that "trapped in the past, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home."

That’s it, the basic premise -- Sam is time-traveling in the past and only wants to go back home, to his body and his life. The show, though sci-fi in premise, focused far more on human interactions. Sam traveled in time and gave everything he had in order to make the world a better place, to help the lives of individuals and humanity. He struggled, but never shirked his duty, always doing his best to help correct mistakes, and always wanting to somehow get back home.

Well, the finale is all about him getting one last chance to go home, and he fails. The series ends with the postscript that “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” It is true that in its original conception, the episode was only intended to be a season finale, and that upon not getting renewed it was re-edited and turned into a series finale.

That, however, is no excuse.

The ending proffered, that “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home,” destroys all hope for Sam. Sam is still traveling, still striving to put right what once went wrong, and forever hoping that his next leap will be the leap home. For a show that was entirely about optimism, self-sacrifice, and doing the right thing, for a show that was entirely about changing the world, making a difference, and helping humanity, to have the final message be that those that help the world are doomed to lose themselves and their lives in their work is horrific.

The notion that by doing good we lose who we are is not one that fits the rest of the series. While Sam never intended to help save the world with his project, once he started down that rode he continued, unswervingly, and all he ever wanted was to one day, somehow, go back home to his wife.

What a bleak, wretched ending, having this man who gave everything, lose everything.

The show may have ended 13 years ago, but I’m still waiting for a retraction. It is unacceptable that Sam Beckett never returned home. I wait for the day when Beckett travels into Bellisario and corrects this grievous error.

And you thought the ending to The Sopranos was bad.

12 comments:

ciw said...

I used to love QL! Haven't thought about it in ages. I don't think the ending bothered me as much as it did you. Quantum reality (laughable though the premise was) probably doesn't square with the odds of Sam getting back into his own body in his own present. Thems the breaks. If you want to console yourself though, go watch that episode (M.I.A.) in wh. Al got to go back in time and dance with the girl he would have married, around the time he was serving in Vietnam, if things had gone differently (bad military intelligence). God, I still remember that last scene so clearly, the two of them dancing -- in different "presents" -- to "Georgia on my Mind." (This according to the internets; strangely, I remember the scene with "Sea of Love" playing.) OMG, I'm starting to tear up just remembering that episode.

_ram-jaane' said...

Not that they would but, if they decide to pick QL up again, you're right, he'd be a hopeless man that goes a bit nuts .. maybe like the Joker from Batman ..

Actually sounds like a decent idea to pick up, though you're right about the naff ending. This is just me & my wanting to 'fix' it.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with it being a bleak and miserable ending, Sam realized he controlled his future and could go home whenever he wanted. It showed that Dr. Sam Beckett cared more for others than himself, while it was sad I found it to be an appropriate ending. God bless!

Anonymous said...

I don't think you understood the ending clearly which is why you found it to be disappointing. When Sam stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator for the first leap, he died. He soul, spirit, consciousness or whatever you want to call it was free to roam the Universe on the next journey we'll all undertake one day. The only problem was that Sam wasn't ready to accept that he was dead, hence his repeated leaping into other bodies to help people. In the end he finally understood what Al the bartender was trying to tell him all along. From that point he undertook one last leap to help his best friend have a happier, better life. After that Sam 'crossed over' to the other side and went to his 'new' home. The imagery was pretty obvious too. Sam was a guardian angel.

Karen said...

I agree. I never liked the ending of QL even though I loved the show. What bothered me the most is that in one of the previous episodes, it is shown that Dr. Beckett is married and has a wife waiting for him. It's even worse than what happened between Beth and Al. At least Beth thought Al died and could move on, even if she did so poorly. Mrs. Beckett can't even do that because she knows he's alive. Not only that, he felt his work was more important than his marriage. And even when he realized he had the choice, he NEVER returned home.

Eric S said...

(Karen said...)

"...he felt his work was more important than his marriage..."

Option 1:
That's a good point, but if you remember correctly Mrs.Beckett told Al not to remind Sam about her after he leaps, because it may get in the way of him doing the "right thing" (as in, get laid with every pretty woman he finds.) We know that his mind goes "Swiss cheese" after every leap so its safe to consider that he forgot her due the effects of the leap (as he did since the first episode) and that Al honored Mrs.Beckett's request, to keep from him the truth about his wife.

Option 2:
Sam being a guardian angel - great concept as well! I didn't think about it (smart) :)

TriciaG28 said...

I was DEVASATED by the ending of QL. To this DAY it upsets me to think that Sam never got home. I can't even tell people about the finale and Beth being reunited with Al without getting upset.

Yes I know it's only a show but it's amazing the emotional attachments teenagers form with fictional characters.

Anonymous said...

Sam was dead. Thats why he could never go home. Quite simple really. There's no debating this. It was quite clear. This was the set up, when you see Al's uncle (the miner) leap after the people are saved from the mine. We are told a few minutes later that he had died years before.
Sam says to the bartender, "I can never go home can I?" I dont know why they had to ever put the caption at the end "Sam never goes home." Its unnecessary. He's dead and chooses to leap himself like an angel thats the revelation. Thats the finale.

CoreyHaim8myDog said...

You missed the point of the ending. In the episode, Sam leaned he could leap where he wanted to leap. He does so for Al. He didn't return home because he decided he had to keep leaping. He always was the quintessential sacrificial hero. He gave his life to hel pothers.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you are a fool.

Worst ever?.. Remind me to never watch tv with you or to take any of your recommendation.

The fact that Sam never returned home.. we were told it was his choice to go on and do tougher leaps... MADE the finale.

He fixed Al's life and sacrificed his own happiness to do the greater good, that is EXACTLY what I would have expected from the character.

Quantum Leap had the BEST finale of any series ever.. all the questions that had to have answers did,whilst leaving enough interpretable info for it all not to seem cut/dried and trite, which it would have done had there been the happy ending you seemed to have expected from the show. it was a great story in and of itself and the life of one of the mains was fixed, which WAS the happy ending.

As for Sam being dead.. WTF?? where did you grasp that nugget from?

Sam never returned home, no.. he went on to do more, as pretty much stated in the actual ep... He certainly didn't die... MAYBE the people in his time saw him die, although that is NEVER mentioned or even hinted at, but over all he 'disappeared' from the imaging chamber, presumably,to do more leaping.

It truely is a shame you missed or misunderstood that episode, and tragic that you decide to share your lacking knowledge with people who may believe you.

QL will always have a fond place in my memeory.. mainly because I 'got' it.

Anonymous said...

Sam defo did not die, because in one of the episodes he actually leaps back into the imaging chamber and al takes his place on one of the leaps. think its the one after the asylum episode. theres was a thunder storm which caused some sort of malfunction when he leaped, hense sam ended up back at quantum leap hq and al ended up on the leap. the only reason sam went back into the imaging chamber was to save al.

When i saw the final episode i was a like omg! but now i realise sam decided to continue his good work. I love quantum leap. it would be great if they made a few more episodes even though it finished a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

These are all pretty interesting omments. Thanks.

I just saw the last season this week (oct, 2013)and was very disturbed by it.Upset.

I think my reaction was evoked because I am an emotional and sentimental person. I wanted the happy ending. After all, we had been with Sam every step of the way.
I also question whether or not Beth and Al should have gotten together. 39 years of marriage, doesnt mean ---HAPPY!

This was just a show, but it doesnt feel that way when you have scripts and actors like these that evoke emotion and caring.

In another thread, one person said that Al the bartender, was Sam in the future reincarnation, encouraging him to make a different decision than he made before (to go home).

From a script standpoint, it probably was a good ending.

Nonetheless, I wish they would have taken into account how much we loved Sams character because he cared so much for others. How often do you see that, even in fiction? It is a rare trait

We just wanted him to be happy.

Maybe to believe, in real life, that goodness and love given freely is also recieved back.